Change From Within

by bicyclemark

This evening, through a series of coincidences and a thoughtful friend, I stumbled upon what is known as “Lloyd Time” at the always bustling Lloyd Hotel, here in Amsterdam. Although the name reminds me of the NYC cops that long ago declared it Giuliani time as they violated a man with a plunger, Lloyd Time is ACTUALLY a weekly night of art, culture, and education, at the hotel restaurant. With invited speakers and a pretty decent audience.

But before any of that, the reason I originally went there, was to be introduced to two special individuals staying at the hotel: two representatives from the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU). It was an honor to meet them, as I have read and heard so much about their struggle for basic rights and legitimate democratic governance.

There will be a podcast this week, featuring an interview I did on the topic of the ZINASU and the state of the struggle in Zimbabwe. But tonight I just wanted to share with you a very simple, but for me, a very poignant thing that one of the brave students told me.

I asked about the problem of having a corrupt and brutal group of people in charge of her country, and if she ever thought a good solution would be for another country to come in with military force and push that government out of power. (as is so often preached and practiced these days)

She replied something like:

“The solution to the problems in Zimbabwe and the movement to push for real democracy and a true constitution, will come from within the country. And it will come not by coups or the use of guns or war, it will come through direct action and democratic means.”

Of course she said it much better than my quote, and she said alot more than that, so look forward to that on a podcast this week. But keep that in mind next time a politician tries to sell you a war.

And if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam on a monday night and you don’t want to come play frisbee… head over to Lloyd Time.

Uganda’s Beloved American Blogger

by bicyclemark

The question is frequently posed: what do I like about living in Amsterdam.

One common answer, that proves very true this season, is that it feels as though Amsterdam is the center of the world. Or rather; a meeting point for the world, en route to somewhere else. Probably because that airport is so dam big!

This past weekend I had a visit from Josh, a man I know as a Uganda based blogger, originally from the US. I guess it’s more than just this city, but also the power of blogging, podcasting, etc., that made it possible for us to have exchanged emails a few weeks ago and finally meet for some drinks and important conversation.

We spoke at length about the role of the internet in Uganda, and perhaps in the larger African picture. The man has plans, and he has already kicked-started them. And underlying everything, is the hope that I share, that this technology must become more accessible, so that those that are disenfranchised, forgotten, disillusioned, lost, yearning for knowledge and communication; all these people and beyond, will have these tools which we enjoy here in the wealthy west, or elsewhere.

But indeed, it is a long way off in a country recovering from so much conflict and loss. Certainly a story that I hope to bring forward using my own tools, especially audio and video for all of you.

All-in-all, an excellent though brief meeting with another world citizen who is using his abilities and his strength to go somewhere very few are willing to go and doing a job that can truely make some direct impact on a population in need.

Somalia and Ethiopia, Looming Disaster

by bicyclemark

If you don’t care about news regarding Somalia or Ethiopia, you suck.

I had to start with that, because a little bird friend of mine at a powerful network just told me that his Atlanta based network doesn’t care about news from Africa. Which is shameful and well, pisses me off.

Why should you care about what is happening or about to happen between Somalia and Ethiopia? It’s pretty pathetic that one has to sell the idea about being concerned for humans wherever they may live, who may face great suffering and death on a mass and unecessary scale.

But I’ll do it anyway. Because after watching the preludes and advances toward conflict between the two countries in the last 6 months, today’s announcement of a holy war against Ethiopia by the Somali Islamists, who control much of the country, sounds like confirmation that a terrible battle has begun and will rage for who knows how long. Hundreds of thousands of refugees… people.. who find themselves in the middle of these armies as they try to murder each other, will lose what little they have and possibly their lives.

A pending disaster that can be stopped.

Ethiopia, for its part, has a very large military (we’re talking several hundred thousand according to the worldfactbook) and have long said they won’t allow the Islamists to take over their neighboring country. They already have what they call, military advisors in the country, which is the cute way the US invented during the cold war to talk about troops that are illegally and covertly fighting in another country.

Anyway I’d rather keep this to one basic point. The signs are already here; an emerging and serious conflict has taken root and now is the time to get involved from an international community position, apply pressure and find creative solutions BEFORE this war escalates. If not.. it will escalate, and a year from now people will ask how this happened, and remark how terrible it all is.